Robert the Bruce - Success and Leadership
Robert the Bruce (1274-1329)
Scottish king (pictured right) who led Scotland to independence after defeating the English at the
Battle of Bannockburn in 1341.
Why was he a great leader and successful?
1. Ruthless opportunism
After many years of successful guerrilla warfare against the English in Scotland, he ruthlessly seized his
opportunity to become king in 1306 after
- murdering another rival in a church in Dumfries in 1306.
2. Success from failure
After Robert crowned himself king of Scotland, King Edward I of England, (pictured right )
retaliated by defeating him at Methven in 1306.
- at the lowest point of his life, even thinking of giving up and leaving Scotland.
But legend says he saw a spider in a cave spin its web on its seventh attempt, prompting him to say:
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”
Encouraged to fight on, he became a hero, when in 1307 Edward imprisoned his wife and child and killed his three
Helped by James “Black” Douglas, he:
- drove the English out of Scotland at the Battle of Bannockburn (see point 3)
- secured Scotland's independence.
3. The Battle of Bannockburn (1341)
At Bannockburn (pictured right directing the troops in Edmund Leighton's 1909 painting), Robert defeated the
English, even though outnumbered three to one.
He won because of:
- local knowledge (he forced the powerful English cavalry into marshy land and limited
- his leadership – he led from the front and by example.
- a new infantry formation (arming them with extra long spears rammed into the ground
to kill the English cavalry).
- the final assault of local townsfolk.
- the possible help of the Knights Templars, fighters from the Crusades.
Together with William
Wallace (pictured right), he is Scotland’s biggest hero and symbol of its nationhood.
Key quote on
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!